Measurement of telomere length (biological age)

What is telomere length measurement (biological age)?

Telomeres are repeats of DNA sequences and are located at the ends of chromosomes. They are responsible for protecting chromosomes from possible fusions and their degradation, thus ensuring their stability and that of the cells. However, with the passage of time, telomeres become progressively shorter, associated with a process of cell division.

Specifically, telomerase is the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length. However, healthy cells hardly produce any telomerase, so that telomeres become progressively shorter until they are very short, leading to cell death or replicative senescence (cell arrest).

Therefore, telomere length is a biomarker of the degree of aging but also of health in general, and can be used to estimate or measure biological age.

The measurement of telomere length makes it possible to
to establish the biological age of the patient

What does it consist of?

The telomere length is different between the different chromosomes of a cell, which means that it will be necessary to analyze a large number of cells for its evaluation. Thus, the average telomere length will be analyzed, which is not sufficient to identify whether there is premature telomere shortening, since small changes in the percentage of telomeres need not be reflected in the average telomere length. Instead, the 20th percentile (critically short telomeres), which has been shown to be the information that relates to aging, will also be studied.

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Telomeric analysis technology performs protocols capable of determining telomere length individually in cells with HT Q-FISH (quantitative high-throughput FISH). This allows to measure telomeric length but also the percentage of short telomeres. This is the technology that makes it possible to quantify the number of short telomeres and thus aging.

To establish the different percentiles of telomere length according to age, an extensive database was made for men and women. However, not all people age at the same rate, regardless of whether they are of the same “chronological” age. Thus:

  • It is basic to have biomarkers that allow estimating the degree of aging of the organism and the biological age, as it will serve as an indicator of the patient’s overall health status.
  • The information displayed will be useful in minimizing the possibility of developing age-related diseases and aging.
  • Lifestyle and genetics are two key factors in telomere length and the rate at which telomeres shorten. If lifestyle changes are made in nutritional aspects, minimizing stress, sleeping well, decreasing toxic intake…), health will be better controlled.

Why is it performed?

Telomere length measurement is recommended for people:

  • Who want to manage their health proactively.
  • Who have a family history of cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune diseases, cancer…

In general, it is an excellent indicator of the patient’s state of health, so it is good to perform it. As the years go by, there is more risk of suffering from diseases. Knowing our state of health will help to prevent them.

In addition, knowledge of biological age will allow us to understand why there are lifestyles that influence aging, which, in turn, will allow us to measure.

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Preparation for telomere length measurement (biological age)

It is not necessary for the patient to be fasting for the test to be performed. However, the test cannot be performed if the patient has the flu or fever, as the results may be altered. Otherwise, it will be the specialist in Clinical Analysis or Family Medicine who will tell the patient what to do before the test.

What does the test feel like?

This is a normal and ordinary analysis, so the patient will hardly feel any discomfort.

Meaning of abnormal results

The results will be available within 30 days. They will not be abnormal but will only show the patient’s biological age. However, they may reflect an abnormality if disease is demonstrated.